Surprising Origin of the ‘Old Granary’, Newport

Old GranaryThe granary which stood at the top of the High Street until 1968 was always assumed to have humble beginnings. But it turns out that this was not quite the case – and it was thanks to a programme last week about the River Forth in the Channel 4 series Britain at Low Tide that I made the connection.

In 1802 John Hay, who had been proprietor of the lands of Newport since 1784, feued a piece of his ground at Newport harbour to John Stein of Kennetpans. Hay granted Stein the right to build a granary, if he wished, and also to bring vessels into the harbour at Newport and to ship corn from the granary.

Stein certainly did wish to build the granary and he acted pretty promptly because a plan of Tayfield dated 1805 shows the granary in place. But why should a businessman from Kennetpans (close by the Clackmannanshire Bridge) be interested in the Newport harbour area?

In a word – whisky.

John Stein is credited with pioneering whisky as an industry and his distillery at Kennetpans, the subject of the television programme, was the first industrial-scale producer of the spirit. No doubt he saw the harbour at Newport with a newly-built granary as an important stage in getting the barley from the fields of North Fife to his distilleries on the Forth or possibly further afield. Remember, this was at a time when transport by sea was the most economical means of transporting large quantities of goods. Further proof of the importance of the granary at that time is that William Haig, distiller at Kincaple, and John Pitcairn, excise officer at Kincaple, were witnesses to the purchase of the ground. (The distilling families of Haig and Jameson were related to the Steins by marriage.)

John Hay didn’t miss out – he received shore dues of 1 plack Scots for each boll of grain delivered out of the granary and shipped from the harbour.

However, for whatever reason, in 1828 John Stein’s heir, John Stein of Ashford, Kent, sold the granary to James Wilson – a Cupar corn merchant. It subsequently passed to George Kerr Harrower, corn merchant, and then to James Ronald, another corn merchant. But by this time – the late 1860s – shipping corn by sea from Newport was becoming less profitable and James Ronald converted the building into housing around 1870.

The old granary was home to many Newport families for almost a hundred years.

The Granary Lane housing complex now stands on the site of the granary and the adjoining original Newport gasworks.

Sasine: John Hay to John Stein, 1802, RS 32/53/499 (extract here);
Sasine: John Stein to James Wilson, recorded 5 January 1829, see abridgement 4604 of 1829;
RHP 30436, Photocopy of Plan of Tayfield, 1805;
all at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Channel 4 Television Britain at Low Tide, Series 3, Programme 2.

Homework: How much is 1 plack Scots per boll of grain today?

A Cow Called ‘Pretty Foot’

Once in a while a document comes to light which really opens a window on life in rural Fife long ago. One such can be found in the Commissariot of St Andrews records held in Edinburgh and availble for purchase at ScotlandsPeople (Wills and Testaments, CC20/6/40, James Fermer or Farmer 1763).

James Fermer (James Farmer) died, without leaving a will, in early July 1763. His complete testament does not survive; we only have the warrant containing the inventory which lists and values his moveable possessions at the time of his death. Genealogically speaking, the document tells us very little: we have name, address and occupation – James Farmer, vintner at St Davids; and we know that his wife, Agnes Reid, survived him; but we don’t even have an exact date of death, we only know that an edict was issued by the Commissary Court on 13 July 1763.
However, the list of his possession runs to three pages and provides an absolutely fascinating record of the contents of his house at the time of his death. The full transcript is here.

James was described as a vintner at St Davids but perhaps innkeeper is a better description since, as well as the bottles, jugs & drainer used by the vintner, there is also all the other equipment needed in the running of an inn – 7 tables, 39 chairs, 12 beds, blankets, plates (wooden, stone & china), delft ware, crystal glass ware, cups, saucers & glasses. But there is evidence of him wearing even more hats: various parts of the mill – so he was the miller too; farm equipment (carts, hand tools, harrow, plough) & crops (oats, barley, wheat, grass & the contents of the kale yard) – so he was a small farmer; there was equipment for cheese making and three spinning wheels – 2 for wool, 1 for flax; the numerous harnesses, bridles, saddles, etc show how large a part the horses played in his business; and he owned a one-eighth share of the St David boat.

The inn was a large building – at least 7 rooms and possibly 8 over 2 storeys as well as cellar, coal house & kale yard. There must have been stabling for the horses & cattle although this isn’t specifically mentioned.

The livestock were important to the family. Agnes, his widow, took the valuer round the property and began with what may well have been their favourite possession: “first – a cow called Pretty Foot”, then two heifers, Nancy & Janet, then four horses – more valuable than the cattle but not named.

The inventory raises as many questions as it gives insights.

  • Why go to the expense of drawing up the inventory? James’ possessions were worth £79-6-2 (£79.31) but the legal fees were £30-15-4 (£30.77). The answer may have something to do with the eighth share of the boat.
  • The St David boat – small ferry or something larger? Its total value was £32. Who were the other shareholders?
  • Of all the legal documents created, only the inventory survives – there is no list of debts owed or debts due.
  • There are 78 birch cabers – poles, beams or parts of a kiln? They may even be part of a cargo.
  • James left no will. Who will benefit from all of this?

‘But what has all this got to do with Newport?’ I hear you ask. Well, in the inventory St Davids is described as being at ‘Dundee Water Side within the parish of Forgan alias St Phillans’. In fact, St David’s was at that time the name of the inn which was the predecessor of the Newport Hotel and it was situated in present-day terms on the site of Trinity Church at the foot of the High Street. And if proof is needed, at the Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, plan RHP30440 shows the building on the site described as ‘the old public house of St Davids’.

Very little is written about Newport before the new ferry pier was built in 1822. This one document shows that there was quite a lot going on.

Ships That Pass In The Night

The Times was a small smack, typical of the multitude of coasting vessels that plied around the British Isles and across to the near continent in the 19th century. In 1871, her crew consisted of 3 men: the master Robert Milne – a 33 year-old Dundonian, the mate William Taylor aged 46 from Crail, and a 17 year-old ordinary seaman George Smith from Stonehaven. We know this because she was recorded in the census on 2nd April at Woodhaven. She was a frequent visitor to the Tay, on this occasion she had brought a load of manure from London to Perth, arriving on 22nd March. Having discharged the cargo, she left Perth empty on 29th March for Woodhaven. After this the records currently available go quiet but she reappears again towards the end of April having left Sunderland (or South Shields depending on the source used) for Inverness, cargo unknown but possibly coal. On 30th April she puts in to Aberdeen because of bad weather but leaves for Inverness the next day. After another gap in the records, she reappears passing north through the Caledonian Canal on 23rd May with a load of slates from Easdale bound for Dundee. She leaves the Canal on 24th May and arrives in King William Dock, Dundee on the 27th. One further visit to the Tay is recorded that year: on 5 September she arrives with 85 tons of coal from Sunderland for the Tay Bridge Contractors.

One clue to the Times’s cargo is given by another coasting vessel, Racer, tonnage 61, a Cornish vessel, master William H Hodge together with a mate, an AB seaman, an ord. seaman & a cook. She appears in London on 7th March 1871 having come from Nice. On 16th March she too leaves London bound for Perth with a load of manure. She arrives in Perth on April 1st and on 8th also sails empty to Woodhaven. However we know from the Customs House records, reported in the press, that she departed from the Tay on 14th April for London with 100 tons of potatoes and has arrived there by the 1st May.

It is highly unlikely that Times would have sailed from Perth to Woodhaven without having a specific cargo in mind – surely Dundee would be a better source of possible cargoes. So my money is on another load of potatoes. Whether she took them to Sunderland direct or via another port is, from the presently available sources, impossible to say.

Just one thought – manure – from London to Perth – at least 2 ship loads.

Shipping & Mercantile Gazette: 8, 15, 17 March 1871; 2, 25, 26 May 1871;
Dundee Courier: 15 April 1871; 29 May 1871; 5 September 1871;
Perthshire Advertiser: 13 April 1871;
Aberdeen Press and Journal: 3 May 1871;
Shields Daily Gazette: 3 May 1871;
Newspapers can be found on the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past sites.
Census Scotland, 1871, 431-1-14 and 903/S-17-1, at ScotlandsPeople.

The United Presbyterians – Wormit’s Forgotten Congregation

There was a United Presbyterian congregation in Wormit from the early 1890s to 1898. They had their own minister, Rev. Hugh Carmichael, and appear to have been similar in strength to, if not bigger than, the Free Church congregation at the time; but they have been largely forgotten. This is despite the strongly-held views and not a few arguments provoked by the proposed union of the two denominations.

A timeline may be of help here:

1889: the Forgan Church (of Scotland) opened a meeting hall at Wormit in a converted house at Railway Cottages. Status later raised to a Mission.

1893: Free Church congregation are meeting in the Railway Cottages on 2 Sundays a month.

1894: Wormit U.P. congregation members strongly in favour of a Union Church in association with the Free Church. Rev. Rae (Newport Free Church) is against it. At this point, neither congregation had a building to call their own or a permanent minister. Discussions continue.

1895: The Established Church congregation moved to the newly-built Hall in Bay Road (now West Hall).

1895: Free Church opened their Preaching Station, later to become a Mission Station (now the East Hall) – cost about £400. Rev. Livingston is minister. [As a general aside, I am struck by the way the non-Established ministers locally preach in each other’s pulpits.]

October 1895: Rev. Hugh Carmichael selected as U.P. minister for Wormit. The U.P. congregation meets in the Public Hall (above the Wormit Post Office).

November 1897: U.P. minister Rev. Hugh Carmichael moves to Glasgow, replaced for 2 months by Rev. Macleroy.

1898: Established Church raised to a Chapel of Ease.

February 1898: Free Church & U.P. Church locally agree to union. The choice of denomination (Free Church or U.P.) would be decided by the choice of new minister, to be selected from a leet of 4.

June 1898: Plans for a new U.P. church submitted to Dundee U.P. Presbytery, estimated cost £2700.

July 1898: At a meeting of the Union Church, Wormit [sic], 5 names were submitted for the position of minister. Rev. Tweedie elected by a majority. The church will now be under the constitution of the Free Church.

July 1898: Rev. Livingston, having voluntarily retired from his candidature in connection with the recent union, in order to promote the harmony of the settlement, leaves the Free Church charge.

August 1898: Union ratified: the congregations become the Wormit United Free Church. The congregations had selected as minister Rev. John Tweedie – a Free Church probationer. The denomination of the church would therefore be Free Church. Donation of £500 received from the Home Mission Board of the U.P. Church towards the costs of construction of a new church.

October 1898: Rev. John Tweedie inducted to the united charge. ‘The congregation were urged to use consideration and forebearance towards each other and to give their minister a kindly welcome.’

1899 – 1901: Construction of new United Free Church – cost £3000.

A piece in the Evening Telegraph in 1908 declares that ‘Wormit set the example of Union for the rest of Scotland to follow, with the election of Mr Tweedie’.


Dundee Advertiser: 7 November 1894, 12 October 1895, 2 September 1898;
Dundee Courier: 7 & 15 November 1894, 28 December 1895, 21 March, 1896, 30 November 1897, 9 June 1898, 21 July 1898, 11 August 1898;
Dundee Evening Telegraph: 25 September 1908;
Newspapers can be found on the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past sites.
The History of Wormit Church

Jottings seems to have had quite a few posts about the local churches – this was not the intention, it just ‘happened’.

333 Squadron, Royal Norwegian Airforce at Woodhaven

333 Squadron of the Royal Norwegian Airforce was formed when the Norwegian flag was first raised at Woodhaven on February 8th 1942. Ten days later the first Catalina PBY aircraft, designated W8424 and called Vingtor after the old Norse War God, landed in the bay.

Finn Lambrechts, the squadron’s first commander, and his flight engineer, Hans Ronningen, had flown the northern route of the Norwegian Airline DNL before they escaped from the Germans, as many others did by a variety of routes finally leading to Britain. Commander Lambrechts had observed that German defences were weak along the coast of Heligoland so that it would be possible to put agents ashore to watch and report on German coastal shipping. His proposal to form a unit was supported by the Norwegians and finally received the approval of Coastal Command.

Woodhaven was chosen as the base because of its relatively isolated location which served the need for secrecy, and Catalinas – designed for anti submarine warfare and convoy escort duties – were chosen for the work. Norwegians from all over the world provided the ground crews, flight engineers and other staff needed. Initially the unit was a detachment from 210 Squadron RAF Coastal Command designated No 1477 Flight.

The Catalinas flew agents into Norway during 1942 and most of 1943. When these activities became too well known to the Germans they were used for anti submarine work and convoy escort duties to protect the American convoys heading for Murmansk. The Catalinas also patrolled ahead of the convoys to report on ice conditions. Towards the end of the war they again began to take in agents. Coded messages broadcast by the Norwegian service of the BBC were used to tell agents (and the squadron) the day on which they would be picked up or receive supplies. Sometimes the weather interfered and the date, but not the time, of an operation would be changed.

On 23rd December 1942, they flew from Woodhaven to Norway to deliver 52 sacks of Christmas presents from a height of 50 feet.

Only one casualty occurred to the Catalinas during the war when one of the flying boats was crippled by anti-aircraft fire on a raid to Norway, but it managed to get back in safety.

In March 1943 six Mosquitoes under the command of Captain Larsen were sent to Leuchars to carry out offensive action along the Norwegian coast line. On May 10th 1943 the two units were officially established as a squadron. ‘A’ Flight flew Catalinas from Woodhaven and ‘B’ Flight operated Mosquitoes from Leuchars. The squadron motto is ‘Our King our Country and the honour of our Flag’.

Contact between the Norwegians and Woodhaven residents was chiefly through William Rankine who was a firm friend of Norway and came to mean a lot to the young airmen. Other locals also did their best to help and one such was Lady Bluebell Walker who opened her home (later to become the Sandford Hotel) to the Norwegians.

King Haakon visited the unit 3 times and Crown Prince Olav once. In July 1944 King Haakon planted the two laburnum trees which are now tended by the Wormit Boating club.

The Squadron used the ‘Mars Sheds’ at Woodhaven Pier and also took over Rock House as a headquarters. Local properties, including Dunvarlich and Netherlea, were also used.

Immediately after the war the 333 Squadron took an active part in the reconstruction of northern Norway and the island settlements. Careful planning was needed to cope with the huge demand for help to restore communications.
In due course the Catalina aircraft was pensioned off to be replaced first by the Albatross and later by the Orion – a 4-engined aircraft with a cruising range of 16 to 18 hours. B Flight was later formed into 334 Squadron and now operates the Starfighter.
333 Squadron’s primary task remains the surveillance of surface underwater and air traffic including rescue operations along the Norwegian coast and in the neighbouring ocean areas. Since January 1st 1977 it has also had the specific task of watching over Norway’s 200 mile economic zone.

The memorial stone with its bronze plaque next to the laburnums and the flag pole at the Boating Club’s Race Box were generously provided by the Norwegians following correspondence between David Owen when Treasurer and Major (later Colonel) Egil Johansen who flew many missions to Norway from Woodhaven. The stone was unveiled on 4th May 1975 by General Stenwig, R No A F, a Woodhaven veteran.

To this day, Norwegians still visit Woodhaven and the Norwegian flag is flown on Norwegian National Day, maintaining a tradition started by Mr Rankine after the war.

Over 840 photographs taken by the Norwegians during their stay are now here in the Galleries. They are reproduced with thanks to Gerd Garnes, their owner.

How the Property Information is Collated

Over thirty years ago, I drew up a grid which listed in a column all the properties on the south side of Prospect Terrace and, for each property, laid out in a row the owners / occupiers working back in time as far as I could go. I used Dundee directories and old valuation rolls as the sources of the information. This was relatively easy – these properties had changed hands only a few times in over 100 years. There were, naturally, discrepencies with the dates when comparing the data from the two sources but, overall, a fairly comprehensive picture of this one side of one street could be built up.

Over the years, this turned into a Newport- & Wormit-wide project. It was much easier to follow the properties through the valuation rolls than by using the directories, so I gathered together copies of valuation rolls at approximately 5-year intervals back to their start in 1855. This was augmented with the information from the censuses. I gathered large sheets of squared paper and put the information for each street or side of a street on one sheet. Some properties were easy to research, others remained stubbornly difficult and a few were impossible. Most entries could eventually be filled in with ink, but there were many pencil entries and not a few question marks.

Roll on to the present day when computer-searching makes things much easier. The data, of course, has to be entered before it can be searched since none of it was online. Other sources have been gathered – voters’ rolls, sasine abridgements, valuation office records, maps, etc., etc. Each source had obviously gathered information for its own specific purpose and the details of names, addresses and dates were not easily linked together. And, needless to say, the complexity, ambiguity and incomplete nature of the information can create its own problems. It helps to have local knowledge – I was a message boy for Beatt & Tait, the grocers, in the 1960s; worked on the Christmas post in the early 70s; and worked in the summer as a student labourer for Newport Town Council until it was abolished and ‘regionalisation’ took over. The background this gave me – particularly with addresses and house-names – was invaluable. To do this exercise elsewhere would be extremely difficult, but not impossible.

I am currently trying to put all this information out in the public arena, checking it all over as I go. It is a time-consuming and complex job, but the satisfaction is immense. However, there will always be areas of doubt – so I can only give a ‘best guess’ as to who lived where and when – but I am fairly confident that the vast majority are accurate.

Anyway, as an indication of the thought processes involved I can give the problem of two semi-detached properties in King Street: present-day numbers 7 and 9.

I had tracked each property through the valuation rolls back from 1967 at 5-yearly intervals to 1855. Consistently this told me that, back to 1876, no. 7 was the bigger property (it had the higher rateable value and paid the higher feu duty). It was owned and inhabited by a succession of James Murrays. Indeed I remember Peem Murray when I delivered his mail and I knew that he lived in what is now no. 7 and is the south-western part of the property, and Miss Marshall lived in the other part no. 9 (her door had ‘Marshall’ on the brass letterbox). The present-day street numbering is correct: there are some addresses which are out of numerical sequence but this is not one of them. The two properties were parts of a single property which was split and sold (albeit within the family) in 1876, the southern part going to James Murray, the northern part being retained by the rest of the family of the property’s first owner George Murray. Looking at the 1894 map, James Murray’s house is the larger. So far, so good. I started to tie in the directory entries to the relevant properties. Then came the census. Ah. Recorded in sequence, from south-west to north-east in 1911, 1901, 1891 and 1881, they all showed the smaller property first (in terms of rooms – 3 in the southern property, 4 in the northern one). Something wrong here, surely. Often the census returns aren’t listed in the exact order. But the other houses round about are correctly ordered, and they wouldn’t be wrong for every year.

The only other source that could help is the 1910 Valuation Act Field Books. I have a few transcriptions of these entries which give details of the houses around 1912. Remarkably, I had the entries for these 2 houses. Entry 142 – Miss M Murray, but shown on the map as Mrs Marshall, – same rental and value as in the valuation roll, but it is described as having ‘kitchen, upstairs room with one small room off, attic – 1 room, washhouse common’. Entry 143 – James Murray, the southern property, correct rental and value, ‘containing kitchen, scullery, room with small room off, dry WC, washhouse common’. So there we are – the larger property, with the higher value, actually has a smaller number of rooms than the other one. So all the sources were correct even if it seemed that they weren’t. I just had to tidy up all the directory entries as best I could and declare it ‘completed’.

But I still have a niggling doubt about the census room numbers.

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Fillans in Newport

The following notes were written by a member of the congregation for an exhibition in 1990 (hence the cut-off in the list of priests).

“The first resident priest in Fifeshire was the Rev. Aeneas McDawson who made Dunfermline the headquarters of the new mission area. He also opened ‘stations’ at Kirkcaldy, Newburgh, Culross and Cupar.

It was not until 1886 that a Mission was founded in Newport. At first the clergy from St. Andrew’s Church (now the Cathedral of the Diocese) looked after the needs of the mission.

In 1889 Newport was raised to the position of a distinct charge under the care of Fr. James Harris. A residence for the priest had been purchased in 1888, and until a church should be built, Mass was said in a rented portion of what had previously been the Royal Hotel. The opening ceremony took place on the 6th November 1889, when Mass was sung by Mgr. Clapperton, Vicar General of the Diocese, and the sermon was preached by Mgr. Joseph Holder, parish priest of St. Joseph’s, Dundee. Cupar along with Tayport then became stations attached to the Newport Mission.

The new church was opened on 25th January 1893 by the then Bishop of Dunkeld, Bishop James Smith. The 1925 Dundee & District Catholic Yearbook describes the Church in the following way: ‘for it stands a considerable distance from the street line, and is a neat but unpretentious little structure of corrugated iron. Inside it is lined throughout with white pine, and the timber roof breaks with good effect the harshness of the outline. Light is given by six windows on either side, and in addition there is a small but artistic stained glass window above the sanctuary. The Sanctuary is divided from the body of the church by a pretty bent wood railing. The altar, in accordance with the Church itself is small but tastefully designed. The seats are substantially made, and can accommodate 250 worshippers.’

The sermon at the opening was preached by Fr. Phelan (later Canon) of St. Mary’s, Dundee. The Church was erected mainly for the sake of the Mars Boys, of whom double as many as before [could] now hear Mass every Sunday, while ample accommodation is left for the local congregation.

Since its foundation the following priests have been Parish Priests at Newport:

  • Rev. James Harris, 1889-1891
  • Rev. William Sutton, 1891-1897
  • Rev. John Kilcullen, 1897-1898
  • Rev. Alexander McMillan, 1898-1900
  • Rev. Patrick Brady, 1900-1908
  • Rev. Anthony Sweeney, 1908-1909
  • Rev. John Roche, 1909-1920
  • Rev. John Noonan, 1920-1930
  • Rev. James Quinn, 1930-1937
  • Rev. Patrick Donnacher, 1937-1940
  • Rev. John Malloy, 1940-1952
  • Rev. John Ross, 1952-1957
  • Rev. Edmund Purcell, 1957-1962
  • Rev. John Joseph Connolly, 1962-1966
  • Rev. Andrew Rooney, 1966-1976
  • Rev. Kenneth McBride, 1976-1981
  • Rev. Aldo Angelosanto, 1981-1988
  • Rev. Hugh Campbell, 1988- ”

The reference to the Mars Boys reminds us that the ‘Mars’ had a higher than expected Roman Catholic populaltion since it took in boys of all denominations, whereas its sister training ship on the Clyde, ‘Cumberland’, only accepted Protestant boys. So Roman Catholic boys from the west of Scotland were sent to the ‘Mars’.

The Church still thrives in the town today.

2d. Train Fare Forces Return to City

Drumclog sits above the road in Wormit, looking over to Dundee and west up the river – an ideal spot for a house in 1895 (and it still is). Its first owner was Rev. Robert Howie Wyllie, the popular and hard-working minister of the Hawkhill U. P. Church in Dundee. From the time he was called to Dundee in 1889 he had stayed in the pleasant surroundings of Westpark Road on the Perth Road, but he joined an ever-growing movement of the middle and professional classes to Wormit. He initially rented a house in Birkhill Avenue but within the year had moved into Drumclog.

But being a minister means having commitments to your congregation, and it was the congregation who put an end to his rural residence. They objected to having to pay 2d. for the train fare to come to see their minister, so Rev. Wyllie had to return to Dundee and took up residence in Blackness Road. He may well have had thoughts of returning to Drumclog as he didn’t sell the house when he returned to the city. Unfortunately, ill health took its toll and he ended his days at his home in Blackness Road. Drumclog was bought by its sitting tenant, James Ogilvy Adams, who renamed it Abbotsford.

Dear Old Home Town

The wee place where I started life
In bonnie Newport town in Fife
How often roamed, in boyhood days
Its pebbled beach and grassy braes,
Though now past three score years and ten
In dreams I linger there again.
And see once more that grocer’s shop
Where business kept me on the hop;
Those friendly customers of old
Bring memories worth more than gold.
The schoolday haunts are with me still
Old James’ Square and Gowrie Hill,
The granary that used to rear,
Above the ancient ruined pier,
The Knowie too and Charlie’s Wood,
Where ‘Tarzan’ romped with ‘Robin Hood’.
Some names that strangers spoke with awe –
Like Washer Willie’s, Pluck the Craw,
Eelscraig Rock and Twinkletree –
A croft forever dear to me —
The gaslit streets of long ago,
The shops with Christmas cheer aglow,
The Sunday School, so fresh and clean,
The broad Tay and its shining scene.
Cruel progress keeps bulldozing on,
And many landmarks sadly gone
Remind me of them in the past,
With memories held true and fast,
So dear old home town, prosper yet –
Your charm I never shall forget.


I make no apologies for using this old poem which is already on the site. It says so much about memories and childhood times in the old ‘village’. Although ‘Anon’, there may be possible clues about its author within it.

A note on locations for non-natives:

  • James’ Square is the block on the corners of King Street, Gowrie Street and Queen Street;
  • Gowrie Hill is the wood between Queen Street and Craighead;
  • The Knowies are south of the railway, behind Elizabeth Crescent (See comment. Thanks, Margaret);
  • Charlie’s Wood – I am not aware of;
  • Washer Willie’s is on the back road to Tayport;
  • Pluck the Craw is on the waterside at the foot of Castle Brae;
  • Eelscraig Rock is the rock on the beach at the bottom of William Street, not to be confused with the ‘Big Rock’ which was at the foot of Robert Street;
  • Twinkletree is in the fields east of the road to St. Andrews, between Forgan roundabout and Forgan Church (I was told that it had burned down after a lightning strike, but I’m not too sure of the truth of this) – the garden walls and trees are still there.

Early Telephones in Newport

As early as 1877, there were experiments using ‘telephonic sounders’ which were attached to the existing ordinary telegraph wires at Newport and Dundee Post Offices. Using these wires and the underwater telegraph cable, it was possible, in the right conditions, to transmit the voice of a singer perfectly clearly from Dundee to Newport.

The first telephones proper arrived in Newport in July 1882 when a cable was laid over the new Tay Bridge which was then still under construction. There were 4 subscribers in Newport who could only call each other via the operator in Dundee.

In October 1883 an underwater cable, which ran from near the Stannergate in Dundee across the river to a point west of the Tayport lighthouses, allowed much improved communications. The first call was to Mr John Jessiman, Hillbank, East Newport and the speaking at either end was said to be remarkably distinct. The newspaper believed it was the first submarine cable of any importance laid and used for telephonic service in the UK.

In August 1884 the National Telephone Co. opened a telephone exchange in Newport. By now there were 7 subscribers with another 4 about to be connected. This first telephone exchange was in Royal Buildings, in the close running off Union Street.

From 1885 to 1896, the valuation rolls show the Newport Lawn Tennis Club leasing a wooden house from the National Telephone Co., but this had been brought in from another site as a pavilion for the newly-formed tennis club and formed no part of the Newport telephone system.

In 1896, telephone numbers start appearing in the annual directories and by 1899 there are 59 subscribers including the Newport Curling Club, and an underwater line to the ‘Mars’. All entries in the 1899 telephone directory are listed here.

This is the 1902 invoice from the National Telephone Co Ltd to Thomas Roger for the telephone in his shop (line rental plus table instrument for 1 year, £8-15-0 [£8.75]).

Around 1906, Wormit got its own exchange in Ashbank (now 13 Riverside Road); around 1935 a purpose-built telephone exchange was built next door.

A new Newport exchange was built further along Union Street (now 2 Union Street) and opened on 8 July 1939. It required that all existing numbers in Newport be changed but allowed direct dialling from Newport to Wormit and Tayport without the need for an operator. Dundee subscribers could dial Newport directly, and one assumes that Newport subscribers could also dial Dundee. Communication with the outside world was again via the operator in Dundee. A downside was later to be found by the residents of the houses opposite who would find it difficult, if not impossible, to get a good television picture.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3 December 1877;
Dundee Evening Telegraph, 14 July 1882;
Dundee Courier & Argus, 17 October 1883;
Fife Herald, 13 August 1884;
Peoples Journal, 23 August 1884;
Fife Herald & Journal, 12 July 1939.
Newspapers can be found on the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past sites.
Admiralty Chart 1481 River Tay, 1902 at National Library of Scotland maps.